Wojtek Wolski

Rangers get healthy, roster shakeup looms

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These are good times for the New York Rangers.

Prior to the Christmas break, the Rangers moved into top spot in the Atlantic Division, a position that’s been monopolized by the Flyers and Penguins this season.

Now, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the Blueshirts are about to get healthier.

Wojtek Wolski, out since Oct. 27 with a sports hernia, is expected to be ready by the end of this week. Marc Staal, who hasn’t played since Feb. 22 after suffering a concussion, could be cleared for contact this week and could make his season debut within the next two weeks (PHT notes: Yes, that’s a lot of “coulds”.)

Brooks also notes that Michael Sauer, sidelined since Dec. 5 with post-concussion syndrome, “seems to be improving” — though the organization hasn’t offered anything official regarding his health.

These are big developments on two fronts. One, New York is getting bodies back as the Winter Classic draws closer — which is in direct contrast to the Flyers, who have been ravaged by injury (though they did just get Claude Giroux back in the lineup).

Two, it presents some questions for head coach John Tortorella. Getting Wolski back will likely push New York’s extra forwards — Sean Avery and Erik Christensen, neither of whom play much — deeper into oblivion. Avery’s already expressed frustration over sitting out and Christensen can’t be happy with his role, having only dressed in four of New York’s 12 games this month.

There’s also the question of when to get Staal back into the lineup. He’s said he’d like to return in time for the Winter Classic, but neither he nor the team wants to risk a potential recovery setback. That said, the Rangers blueline is rather thin with Steve Eminger out (separated shoulder) and Jeff Woywitka on the limp. In their last game before the Christmas break, Torts went almost exclusively with four D as Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman all played over 24 minutes in a 4-2 win over Philly.

Should the Bruins be sellers at the deadline?

Boston Bruins' David Pastrnak, left, and Jimmy Hayes, right, skate back to the bench as the Los Angeles Kings celebrate a goal during the second period of the Los Angeles Kings 9-2 win over the Boston Bruins in an NHL hockey game in Boston Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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Not surprisingly, last night’s 9-2 loss to Milan Lucic and the Kings garnered no shortage of opinions on the state of the Boston Bruins.

For example, here’s CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty:

…the Bruins no longer have the kind of roster that can hold up in a ground-and-pound battle against the best of the West. Their 5-9-3 record against the Western Conference this season is clearly indicative of that. Julien pointed that out on Tuesday after watching his team get shellacked by the Kings and the point is valid: it’s probably time for the Bruins organization, the fans, the media and those around the league to wrap their minds around the concept that this season’s Bruins team can’t be held to the standard of past B’s teams.

They’re younger and quicker in some spots, but they’re also nowhere near as good.

And here’s ESPN’s Scott Burnside:

Yes, Boston owns a wild card spot as of Wednesday morning, but is anyone confident this is a team that can stay there, or make a dent if they get in?

WEEI’s DJ Bean had some thoughts:

Ultimately, the Bruins won’t need to worry about their record against good Western Conference teams because they sure as heck won’t be meeting them in the playoffs this season. Still, games like Tuesday against the Kings and the pre-break finale against the Ducks provide a nice reminder that despite hanging around in the East, the Bruins’ days of dominant play are well behind them. Given that they haven’t developed many young players and their core is only aging, that next wave of greatness could be pretty far away. 

And so too did NESN’s Jack Edwards, who opined during last night’s broadcast, “There has been a talent drain in Boston.”

Edwards was referring (again) to the once-vaunted Bruins defense that has struggled to replace Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton. Further complicating matters, at 38, Zdeno Chara is the third-oldest defenseman in the league.

Now, granted, it was only one game. Sometimes, a team just lays an egg. The Bruins are still in a good spot to make the playoffs.

That being said, even if they hadn’t lost so badly last night, the pressing question for the B’s would still be what GM Don Sweeney plans to do ahead of the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Take winger Loui Eriksson, a 30-year-old pending unrestricted free agent who’s enjoying a fine season with 16 goals and 24 assists. He could net the Bruins a nice return.

True, losing Eriksson for picks and/or prospects would make the Bruins weaker in the short term. But with that defense, the reality is that the short term may not be salvageable anyway.

Related: Kevan Miller is not the problem for Bruins, but he does illustrate the problem

What are Vancouver’s deadline plans after losing Sutter (broken jaw) and Edler (fractured fibula)?

Brandon Sutter
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After a good Tuesday night, the Vancouver Canucks are having a lousy Wednesday morning.

The club has just announced that center Brandon Sutter and defenseman Alex Edler have been sent home from the club’s current two-game road swing, after suffering injuries in a win over Colorado last night.

Craig Oster, Sutter’s agent, told News 1130 his client has a broken jaw after taking a puck to the face. Per TSN, Edler is undergoing “imaging” on his foot following a blocked shot, but it’s believed he’ll be out the next 2-3 weeks.

Update: Fractured fibula for Edler. And the team also confirmed Sutter’s broken jaw.

The impact of these injuries will be profound.

Vancouver hasn’t been good this year but remains in the thick of the playoff chase, sitting just four points back of the Avs for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with three games in hand.

At the same time, the Canucks are trying to rebuild, and have two potentially big trade chips at the deadline in pending UFAs Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata.

Will the Sutter and Edler injuries factor into Vancouver’s future plans?

You’d have to think so.

Edler is a staple on the back end, leading all Canuck blueliners in points (20) and TOI per game (24:27). Sutter, meanwhile, was supposed to be a key piece of the club this year but has had most of his season ravaged by injury — prior to the broken jaw, he missed 33 games following sports hernia surgery.

All told, Sutter has appeared in just 20 games this year.

His is also the second major facial injury suffered by a Canuck this season — Hamhuis only recently returned from a 21-game absence after taking a puck to the face in mid-December.

Kings place Ehrhoff on waivers

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Nick Bonino #13 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Christian Ehrhoff #10 of the Los Angeles Kings head for the piuck during the first period at Staples Center on December 5, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Kings have placed defenseman Christian Ehrhoff on waivers, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

A veteran of almost 800 NHL games, Ehrhoff has not fit well with Los Angeles after signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal in August. The 33-year-old has just 11 points in 40 games and is a team-worst minus-10. Though he had two assists in last night’s 9-2 win over the Bruins, he also took a careless tripping penalty in the first period that led to a Boston goal.

In a related story, the Kings are rumored to be looking for help on the back end. In fact, they were reportedly quite interested in Dustin Byfuglien, before he re-signed with the Jets.

According to Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider, 23-year-old defenseman Kevin Gravel is “on the verge of a recall” from AHL Ontario.

The Kings play Thursday in Brooklyn.

Report: Kadri’s throat-slashing gesture being reviewed by NHL

Nazem Kadri
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Nazem Kadri‘s throat-slashing gesture is under review by the NHL, according to TSN.ca.

The Maple Leafs forward made the gesture while sitting on Toronto’s bench last night in Calgary, moments after he was laid out by Flames captain Mark Giordano.

The NHL first started cracking down on the throat-slashing gesture in 2000. Former NHLer Nick Boyton was suspended twice for making the gesture, first in 2006 then again in 2010. He was banned one game for each incident.